Saron Shrimp (Saron marmoratus) is one of the most colorful and weird-looking shrimp species in the marine aquarium trade. These shrimp are also commonly known as Marbled shrimp, Long Arms Marbled Shrimp, Monkey Shrimp, Eyespot Shrimp, Carid Shrimp, and Buffalo Shrimp.
Saron Shrimp are hardy and easy to care for, therefore, they can be recommended even for beginners. They also have developed an ability to change their color to blend into the environment and avoid predation through camouflage.
This care guide will give a special look into this remarkable species. This article covers all aspects, from natural habitat conditions and how Saron Shrimp should be cared for within your marine tank, to dietary requirements, behavior, etc.
Quick Notes about Saron Shrimp
||Marbled shrimp, Long Arms Marbled Shrimp, Monkey Shrimp,
Eyespot Shrimp, Carid Shrimp, and Buffalo Shrimp
|Scientific Name||Saron marmoratus|
|Tank size (minimum)||10 gallons (~40 liters)|
|Size||up to 3 inches (about 8 cm)|
|Optimal Temperature||22 – 26°C (~72°F – 79°F)|
|Water type||SG = 1.023 – 1.025|
|Optimal PH||8.0 – 8.4|
|Optimal KH||8 – 12|
|Diet||Omnivores / mostly carnivorous|
|Life span||up to 3 years|
|Color Form||Can change colors|
Taxonomy problems of Saron Shrimp
In science, the identity of this shrimp species has been particularly difficult.
According to official classification, Saron marmoratus is a species of “cleaner shrimp” from the family Thoridae. At the same time, its taxonomic position is subject to some controversy as some authorities have considered it to be a member of the family Hippolytidae sensu lato.
In the aquarium trade, we also have this type of problem.
There is also a lot of confusion and misunderstanding in our hobby. In the aquarium trade and aquarists often use the same terms to describe different species.
There are 4 species in the genus Saron and they may all look pretty similar for an untrained eye, especially, when they are juveniles and small.
Origins, Natural Habitat of Saron Shrimp
Saron marmoratus is widely distributed in the whole Indo-West-Pacific region, from the Hawaii, Marquesas, and Tahiti Islands, southward to Australia and westward to the Malay Archipelago and across the tropical Indian Ocean to the Red Sea and east coast of Africa.
This species was also reported from the Agatti Island, Lakshadweep, India as well as from Hawaii, Eastern Australia, Red Sea, East Coast of Africa, and Iran.
These shrimp are common among coral and coral rubble, in the infralittoral to sublittoral zone to a maximum depth of 120 ft. (37 meters) deep.
Description of Saron Shrimp
Most articles say that Saron shrimp can grow up to 2 inches (about 5 cm) long. Well, this is not true.
Saron shrimp are fairly large and bigger than other species of “cleaner shrimp”. This species can easily grow up to 3 inches (about 8 cm) long and even more!
In 1916, Stanley Wells Kemp (a renowned marine zoologist and oceanographer) wrote “coloration of living specimens is very wonderful, resembling that of a rich Turkey carpet”. It is not possible to argue with that.
Their body is light brown and slightly greenish in color with yellow, marbled, and white speckled spots and banded red and white legs. Every Saron shrimp exhibits a considerable degree of individual color variation. In addition, it is known that this species varies from the point of color from one location to another.
They have a bunch of feathery appendages, called cirri, on the back.
Saron shrimp have a relatively large rostrum; it is even slightly longer than the carapace and strongly recurved. Their abdomen is also humped and a little longer than the carapace.
The eyes are pear-shaped, large, and prominent. The pereopods (walking legs) are thin with hair.
Lifespan/Longevity of Saron Shrimp
Currently, there is no data available on the average or maximum lifespan of Saron marmoratus in the wild.
However, in captivity, they can live for 3 years, if appropriately cared for.
The Behavior of Saron Shrimp
Saron shrimp are very shy and skittish animals. They are scared of anything and do not like to be touched or handled in any way.
They are nocturnal animals and spend most of their time hiding under rocks from their tank mates.
Note: This kind of behavior should not surprise you. As a matter of fact, it is pretty common amongst grazing invertebrates because, in nature, it is mainly associated with attempting to avoid visual predators whilst feeding.
Once settled, their behavior will become slightly more outgoing and Saron shrimp will come out more often even during the daytime.
Generally, this is quite an inactive species. You can see them just sit doing nothing … for hours. However, when threatened Saron shrimp become surprisingly fast on their feet! They possess an incredibly fast reaction time.
These shrimp also rely on camouflage to avoid unnecessary attention. Saron shrimp can vary the color of the body so that at night it turns primarily red. This is a defensive mechanism to hide from predators during the twilight. They often become greenish to mottled brown/white coloration during the day.
They are not very social but can tolerate other of their species. It is recommended to keep one male and one or two females in the group.
- Socialization: Low to medium
- Activity: Low
- Active: At night
- Peaceful: Yes
Saron shrimp and Urchin Association
Although it is not a symbiotic relationship, in nature, Saron shrimp can be also found in the entrance of the cave near to the long-spined sea urchin.
According to some experiments, when the urchin moved, shrimp followed it.
Saron shrimp use these long spines as protection. The benefit of urchins is yet to be discovered.
Feeding Saron Shrimp
Saron shrimp are natural-born scavengers. They are omnivores and opportunistic eaters, which sift through the fine substrate at night searching for any organic detritus, plankton, dead animals, and other edible items.
In an aquarium, these shrimp will be an effective part of the clean up crew feeding on debris, waste, and rotten foods.
The diet of a Saron Shrimp can include brine shrimp, plankton, flaked food, frozen food, and small pieces of fish.”
Foods Saron shrimp will enjoy, for example:
- brine shrimp,
- mysis shrimp,
- flaked food,
- frozen food,
- small pieces of fish or shrimp.
Saron Shrimp and Corals
There is a lot of conflicting information regarding this matter.
Some aquarists claim that Saron shrimp are completely reef safe and they have never had any problems with them for years.
However, there are also multiple reports where these shrimp were model citizens until one day they were caught red-handed picking at Zoanthid corals, Montipora corals, Pocillopora corals, Red Hornets, Bubble Tip Anemones, and some other.
Some people say that you need to have the right species and Saron marmoratus should not be confused with Saron recticostris (they have thick beige bodies with purple legs) which are not reef safe and can even attack duster worms, snails, other crustaceans, etc.
Unfortunately, Saron shrimp are known to eat the polyps of a wide variety of hard and soft corals.
Therefore, Saron shrimp should not be listed as reef safe. More like reef safe with caution!
Sure, you might be lucky for some time but eventually, there is a high chance they can eat some of your corals. They are not voracious eaters but can do it, especially, if they are hungry.
Caring and Keeping Saron Shrimp
Saron marmoratus is a pretty hardy species. So, keeping them in a tank is not complicated because they do not have special water quality requirements.
Basically, Saron shrimp should be maintained under conditions that are suitable for any other typical marine aquarium.
To get started, these shrimp need at least a 10-gallon (40 L) tank per individual and 5 more gallons for every additional shrimp you add to the tank.
Of course, having a larger tank is always preferable for the stability of water chemistry.
Temperature: The ideal water temperature for keeping Saron shrimp is between the range of 72 – 79 °C (22 – 26 °C).
pH: Maintain optimal pH values 8.1 – 8.4 for the shrimp to thrive in your saltwater aquarium.
Hardness: Keep water hardness values between 8 – 12 dKH
Calcium: The concentration of calcium, the PH, and the alkalinity of the aquarium’s water must be maintained at acceptable levels as well. Keeping calcium concentration in the range of 400 to 450 ppm is optimal.
I need to repeat that Saron shrimp are nocturnal and very shy. Generally, they do not really need light at all.
Therefore, lighting should be adapted only to the needs of your corals and other animals in the tank.
Saron shrimp are not diggers and do not have any preference for the substrate.
In aquariums, decorations play an important role for the Saron shrimp – they provide hiding places (shelter and protection) and minimize stress to your shrimp.
This is also extremely important for the molting process!
So, tank décor should include plenty of structures to hide.
Before putting Saron shrimp into your tank do not forget to carefully acclimate them for a few hours.
Do not rush the process! Do it very slowly to prevent any unnecessary stress to the shrimp.
Basic Tank Equipment (links to check the price on Amazon)
Sexing Saron Shrimp
It is rather difficult to tell the difference between a male and a female Saron shrimp. Scientifically, females can be distinguished from males:
- by the dorsal margin of the carapace and the abdomen which have tufts of setae (denser in the females),
- the first pereopod is different between males and females. It is shorter in the female.
- the females possess an obvious brush-like structure of setae on the first pair of legs. Whereas, the males have elongated chelae which are longer than the body.
Mating Saron Shrimp
Research on this species remains limited, some aquarists believe that Saron shrimp are usually collected in pairs, and form a monogamous relationship. Otherwise, they may fight to the death.
Breeding Saron Shrimp
Unfortunately, it is extremely hard to breed Saron shrimp in captivity. So far, there have been no reports of successful breeding Saron marmoratus in home aquariums.
Currently, the pet industry completely depends on wild-caught species.
According to the study, Saron marmoratus has several zoea and postlarva stages before metamorphosing into the small copy of adult shrimp.
Zoea and postlarva require filtered seawater with a salinity of 35 – 37‰ and pH 7.9 – 8.1 at room temperature (23 – 26°C or 73 – 79°F). In laboratory conditions, artemia nauplii were offered as food.
|Zoea I||3.76 – 3.94mm||4 days|
|Zoea II||3.00 – 3.26mm||4 day|
|Zoea III||3.30 – 3.55mm||2 days|
|Zoea IV||4.23 – 4.46mm||5 day|
|Zoea V||5.73 – 6.49mm||6 days|
|Zoea VI||7.00 – 7.52mm||6 days|
|Postlarva I||7.93 – 8.30mm||5 days|
|Postlarva II||8.73 – 9.00mm||3 days|
|Postlarva III||9.00 – 9.50mm||11days|
|Postlarva IV||9.50 – 9.70mm||14 days|
|Postlarva V||9.72 – 9.80mm||7 days|
|Postlarva VI||9.78 – 10.00mm||11 days|
|Postlarva VII||10.8mm||2 days|
Saron Shrimp and Suitable Tankmates
Choose the tankmates of the Saron marmoratus with care.
Lots of aggressive species of marine life will simply see them as prey. Several examples of these include tangs, clownfish, riggerfishes, puffers, larger hawk fish, larger wrasses, morays, lionfish, etc.
Aggressive eaters should be avoided as well. Saron marmoratus are very timid and come out only after dark.
Avoid Large and/ or aggressive invertebrates like Coral banded shrimp, Arrow crabs, etc. Basically, anything that might decide these shrimp can be a good snack.
Potentially good tankmates:
- Boxer crabs, Emerald crabs, Porcelain anemone crabs,cleaner shrimp (Peppermint shrimp, Red Fire shrimp, Skunk Cleaner Shrimp, Red-white Cleaner Shrimp), Sexy shrimp, Bumble Bee shrimp, usually do not bother Saron shrimp.
With their striking coloration, Saron marmoratus will be an attractive addition to any marine aquarium. Their colorful ‘designs’ essentially make them look like a walking Carnaval.
They are hardy and very interesting species.
Just keep in mind that they are not completely reef safe as some aquarists claim.
- Sexual Dimorphism in Saron Marmoratus (Olivier) (Decapoda, Hippolytidae). Crustaceana. 1971.
- First record of marbled shrimp Saron marmoratus (Olivier, 1811) from Syrian marine waters. The Journal of Zoology Studies. January 2018.
- First record of Saron marmoratus (Olivier, 1811)(Crustacea: Decapoda: Hippolytidea) from Makran Coast, Iran. Iranian Journal of Animal Biosystematics(IJAB) Vol.3, No.1, 69-75, 2007.
- Complete Larval Development of Saron marmoratus (Olivier, 1811) Reared Under Laboratory Conditions (Crustacea: Decapoda: Hippolytidae). International Journal of Research Studies in Zoology (IJRSZ) Volume 2, Issue 3, 2016.
- Larval stages of the Hippolytid Shrimp Saron marmoratus reared under Laboratory Conditions. Sci.Rep.Mus.Univ. 4. 2002.
- Occurrence of Marbled Shrimp Saron marmoratus (Olivier, 1811) (Decapoda: Caridea: Hippolytidae) in Lakshadweep Archipelago, India. Proc Zool Soc. 2014.
- First Record Marbled Shrimp Saron marmoratus (Olivier, 1811) from Turkish Marine Waters. Natural and Engineering Sciences. 2018.